Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tammany Trace added to Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame

          The Tammany Trace, an abandoned railroad right-of-way converted to a 27.5 mile linear recreation path through St. Tammany Parish (LA) has been named the 31st trail added to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Hall of Fame.  The RTC, a trails advocacy group,  has participated in establishing several hundred recreation trails in the U.S from unused railroad right-of-ways.  In almost all cases the R.O.W. is rail banked; an agreement that allows the R.O.W to serve as a trail, thereby keeping it together, until the time it might be in the national interest to make it a railroad again.
           In the 1986 a 31-mile long stretch of Illinois Gulf Central Railroad connecting Covington with Slidell was abandoned.  The idea of developing the narrow right-of-way into a recreation trail for cyclists, hikers, runners, walkers and roller skaters with a side trail for equestrians, was first proposed by a grass roots group of trail advocates, S.T.A.R.T. (St. Tammany Area Rails to Trails.)
           Kevin Davis, a St. Tammany Parish Police Juror in the early 1990s worked hard to convince the parish to buy the recently abandoned R.O.W saying it would provide a safe place for recreation in the rapidly growing parish.  A grand opening of the first stretch of Trace, 8.6 miles connecting Abita Springs with highway U.S. 190, was held September 17, 1994.
            With the completion of a bridge across Bayou Lacombe, several years ago, the Trace is now substantially complete at 27.5 miles.  The Trace runs east and west from downtown Covington to a dead end at Neslo Rd. just west of Slidell.  To bring to Trace from Neslo Rd. to Heritage Park in Slidell, a route of suburban roads and side paths are being considered.
          Voters to the RTC site chose the Trace over two other finalists.  In the past Hall o Fame inductees were chosen by RTC staff.
           Qualities such as outstanding scenic value, amenities and historical significance are considered.  The Tammany Trace, with a total of 500 acres of greenspace of its own passes through a large state park and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife preserve.  Towns along the way, Covington, Mandeville, Lacombe and Slidell offer a variety food and beverage outlets near the Trace.  RTC officials said, in declaring the Tammany Trace in the Hall of Fame that the north shore trail, about 30 air miles north of New Orleans (LA) attracts over 300,000 visitors annually, an average of 821 a day!
           Want to visit another RTC Hall of Fame Winner near by?  The Longleaf Trace, running about 42-miles one way from Hattiesburg northwest to Prentiss, is a beautiful ride.  Hattiesburg, MS is about a two-hour drive northeast from New Orleans.  The Longleaf Trace, opened Labor Day 2000 and was named as a RTC Hall of Fame Trail in 2010.
          For more information about both the Tammany Trace and the Longleaf Trace, search this blog.


theWeissGuy said...

Jack - You omitted some critical history. I and Bill Keller were instrumental in getting the RTC to start making the Trace a reality. My contacts in the RTC office helped get the planning started. It was a long hall over several years completed before I left NOLA.

jcurryjr said...

Few origin stories go unchallenged. Memories fade, egos intensify. The goal of my brief post was to provide a fragment of historical context for the HOF designation, not write an unabridged history of the Trace. I am sorry you feel slighted by my omission of your participation in founding the Trace. To write the post I refreshed my memory of events by reviewing printed materials I have saved from the time when I was writing about the Trace for the Times Picayune and the RTC. Lane Carson and Lynn Mitchell were featured in a Jan. 14, 1990 St. Tammany-Picayune proposing uses for the RR corridor then not yet parish property. A one-page newsletter, "Rails to Trails," Vol I, Issue I, March 1993, credited Bill Keller and his vision of a 160-mile "Ring Around the Lake," as pushing the Trace forward. Numerous local, regional, state and federal officials were lauded. Kevin Davis was of course the prime mover. Without his ability to negotiate the many contracts necessary to establish the corridor and other services there would be no Tammany Trace for us to enjoy now more than two decades later.